Limbaugh and Hannity Off Cumulus Stations?

The nation's second largest broadcaster is balking at the prices to keep Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on its air.

limbaugh-hannity

The nation’s second largest broadcaster is balking at the prices to keep Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on its air.

POLITICO (“Cumulus planning to drop Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity“):

In a major shakeup for the radio industry, Cumulus Media, the second-biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations at the end of the year, an industry source told POLITICO on Sunday.

Cumulus has decided that it will not renew its contracts with either host, the source said, a move that would remove the two most highly rated conservative talk personalities from more than 40 Cumulus channels in major markets.

The decision comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows, broke down due to disagreements over the cost of the distribution rights, the source said.

Dropping the two most popular conservative talk show hosts—which is to say, the two most popular political talk show hosts—is a bold move. What’s their backup plan?

[I]n recent weeks, Cumulus has been quietly reaching out to radio talent agents and political insiders about new local and regional station hosts to fill some of the airtime that will be left vacant by Limbaugh and Hannity, industry sources said. Cumulus is also expected to move some of its existing talent — which includes Mike Huckabee, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage — into one of the slots.

Well, at least nobody is going to accuse them of ideological bias. Unless this is a secret plot to make Republicans seem even more crazy.

UPDATE:  Alan Colmes says everyone is misinterpreting this story:

Cumulus and Clear Channel have been buying up stations in major markets. Limbaugh and Hannity are syndicated by Premiere, which is owned by Clear Channel. Rather than pay fees to Cumulus to carry these shows it makes more sense to put them on their own properties, reduce local talent costs, and save those fees. The two top-rated talkers aren’t going anywhere. They’re just changing dial positions and, in many cases, to better signals.

Interesting.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. KhalMojo says:

    Anyone got any stats on whether talk radio, in particular conservative talk radio, ratings are dropping? I know there’s boycotts going on and these guys are getting a worse and worse rap (justifiably), but are ratings going down in general?

  2. @KhalMojo:

    Anyone got any stats on whether talk radio, in particular conservative talk radio, ratings are dropping?

    From what I’ve read, the problem isn’t ratings, but advertisers. You have to remember that the listeners aren’t a radio station’s actual customers; and it’s been getting increasingly difficult to find big national advertisers who are willing to risk their broader reputations by associating themselves with loose cannons like Limbaugh and Hannity.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    “…Unless this is a secret plot to make Republicans seem even more crazy…”

    Is that even possible?

  4. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You mean its hard for a radio station to make a living when its only remaining advertisers are gold bugs, mail-order diabetes suppliers, and The Scooter Store?

  5. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: Levin and Savage make Limbaugh look like Bill Moyers.

  6. legion says:

    Unless this is a secret plot to make Republicans seem even more crazy.

    There’s nothing ‘secret’ about it – unless you’re a Republican. They’ve been making themselves seem more crazy every single day since Obama was elected. And I only say ‘seem’ out of politeness.

  7. @Gromitt Gunn: Oh, don’t forget all the ads for government assistance programs (WIC, etc.) which air on talk radio programs for some reason.

    Kind of ironic that the money that the radio station and Limbaugh et al. get actually comes from the government, no?

  8. Electroman says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You have to remember that the listeners aren’t a radio station’s actual customers

    Indeed, they are the product.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    Levin and Savage make Limbaugh look like Bill Moyers.

    Savage lives out here in the People’s Republic of the San Francisco Bay Area (why he lives in an area so liberal, and among the very people he despises so much, escapes me). Around here people refer to his show as “Sewage Nation.”

  10. C. Clavin says:

    “…Levin and Savage make Limbaugh look like Bill Moyers…”

    Understood…although I think Levin and Savage only make Limbaugh look like Limbaugh…no one can make that lying sack of horse-$hit look like Moyers.
    It’s just that I can’t imagine the Republican Party being any crazier.

  11. Pinky says:

    Limbaugh’s on 600 stations. If Cumulus is looking to drop him from 40, he can weather that. He can afford to lose smaller markets, and he can pick up other stations in bigger markets like New York.

    Hannity’s easily replaceable. He’s neither bright nor funny. A station can easily find someone to fill his slot. Buf for a conservative talk station to lose Limbaugh, the whole lineup falls apart. Conservatives are going to set their dial to whatever station Limbaugh is on. A small station with Rush, Hannity, and 18 hours of no-names should be able to beat a strong station with the rest of the conservative lineup, but a hole from noon to 6pm.

    The thing that non-listeners don’t realize is that Limbaugh is clever. He’s quick on his feet and genuinely funny, and he can make connections between stories in order to paint a picture that’s different from anyone else’s. Hannity’s a bully pretending to be a thoughtful person. Levin’s a thoughtful person pretending to be a bully. Savage is just a joke. There are some others who could step up to fill the first string, but Rush is the star.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    “…Conservatives are going to set their dial to whatever station Limbaugh is on…”

    Real Conservatives would never listen to Limbaugh. Fat boy is just another charasmatic leader of a cult…Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, David Koresh, Charles Manson…he appeals to Republican fundamentalists…but not actual Conservatives.
    I’m laughing to myself as I try to imagine a conversation between Limbugh and W. F. Buckley.
    But the fact that you think he is a “star”, fan boy…tells us everything we need to know.

  13. Eric Florack says:

    This is not a matter of ratings. Both hosts have huge ratings which bare not dropping. I worked for the predecessor to Cumulus, under Lou Dickey SR, and will tell you that this is Cumulus trying to move more into programming THEY generate. I think it a vanity move, frankly and one likely to backfire on JR, but there it is.

  14. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Buckley and Limbaugh were friends. You’re underestimating him. As for labelling him a star, I know that radio-to-TV comparisons are flawed, but he does have roughly the same number of listeners weekly as American Idol has viewers.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Eric Florack: There’s only so much one can pay for content, though, and generate a profit. Especially if many advertisers are afraid of being associated with Limbaugh.

    @Pinky: I get the sense that Rush has become much more strident in recent years. Once upon a time, he was trailblazing a niche. Now, there’s so much competition in the conservative punditry space that tongue-in-cheek hyperbole is no longer enough. His virtue was always that, even when he was using outrageous lingo like “feminazi,” it came across as playful to most of us. Now, he comes across as angry.

  16. Pinky says:

    @James Joyner: It’s been a while for me, so I’m not sure. His show has ups and downs; I think it’s very dependent on the current issues on the table. I can tell that most of the commenters on this thread are unfamiliar with his show, though, so it’s hard to take their comments seriously. I remember back when Buckley was around, he was denounced for not “growing” like Goldwater had; when Goldwater was around, he was denounced for not “growing” like whoever came before him. I have no doubt that twenty years from now we’ll be told that even Limbaugh had a sense of humor and was willing to compromise, unlike the current spokesman for conservatism.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Pinky…
    You are comparing Limbaugh to Buckley and Goldwater?
    Jesus-god, are you daft?

  18. C. Clavin says:

    “…Both hosts have huge ratings which bare not dropping…”

    Well, yeah…if you listen to what the hosts say…which is obvious you do as a card carrying ditto-head.
    Limbaugh’s audience…like the rest of the Republican party…is dying off.
    He’s nothing compared to what he was when Republicans were frothing at the mouth over Clinton’s Oval Office hummer.
    The under 40 crowd doesn’t get the blind ignorant rage that turns on folks like you, Florack.

  19. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem is that if you want to listen to radio there are things like Sirius and podcasts.

  20. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Do you have numbers on that? I’ve been looking online for radio ratings and they seem to be very sketchy.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @ Pinky…
    Radio ratings are tremendously sketchy and always have been.
    That’s why Limbaugh has gotten away with lying about his numbers for years.
    Trust me…if Cumulus was seeing big ratings and revenue…they would not let him go.
    He’s clearly not carrying his weight (pun intended). He gets paid a bunch of $$$ and doesn’t deliver. A lot like the Republican Congressional Caucus.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    I remember back when Buckley was around, he was denounced for not “growing” like Goldwater had; when Goldwater was around, he was denounced for not “growing” like whoever came before him.

    Two points: (1) Limbaugh is to Goldwater as draft-dodging is to actual military service, and (2) Limbaugh is to Buckley as cheese whiz is to actual cheese.

    Also, Hannity is to either of those two as Agent Orange is to Orange Juice.

  23. Andre Kenji says:

    Advertisers do not like to advertise to old people. If talk radio has similar(Or even worse) demographics than Fox News then even if the Limbaugh´s number of 14 million is real that´s mean nothing. Probably, only a small fraction of these are in the Demo.

    Local FM should invest in local programming because that´s something that´s more difficult to be provided either by satellite radio or by most internet outlets.

  24. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Thanks for illustrating my point. And here I was afraid I was overdramatizing it.

  25. legion says:

    @Pinky: Surprisingly, I can’t see anything in that statement I disagree with. I remember being stationed in Germany in the early 2000s, and Rush was on Armed Forces Radio every day. Back then, I actually didn’t mind being stuck with him for english-language programming, as he was quite good when he was talking about news & such. He got tiresome quickly when he started ranting about politics, but that wasn’t his only trick back then. But ever since – maybe by his own inclination, maybe as forced to by the very market he built – he’s gone farther and farther into looney-land.

    It’s not just that he’s not interesting to a significant chunk of the market – he’s been that for years – it’s that he has moved to actively, aggressively insulting at least half of the entire population of the US. Plus pretty much everyone in the world who isn’t American. That’s literally his entire show now. When that’s the only thing you bring to the table, it limits the kinds of advertising offers you’re gonna get. I’m sure there will be lots of right-wing morons up in arms about how this is another example of Obama’s Socialist Tyranny! (my bet: Erick, son of Erick will be first) while blithely ignoring the fact that this is actually an example of the Free Market working exactly like they (claim) thay want it to.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    I have no doubt that twenty years from now we’ll be told that even Limbaugh had a sense of humor and was willing to compromise, unlike the current spokesman for conservatism.

    At the risk of further illustrating your point (supposedly), your prediction seems totally wrong for the reasons that Legion lays out…

    …it’s that he has moved to actively, aggressively insulting at least half of the entire population of the US. Plus pretty much everyone in the world who isn’t American. That’s literally his entire show now.

    Granted, it could well be true that a totally worthless bottom feeder like Michael Savage will be the voice of conservatism twenty years from now…

  27. Davebo says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Savage lives out here in the People’s Republic of the San Francisco Bay Area (why he lives in an area so liberal, and among the very people he despises so much

    Because it’s a great place to live and Savage doesn’t despise them at all. I don’t really have to explain how Colbert isn’t really a hard core conservative do I?

    PT Barnum would be proud of Mike Weiner!

  28. ernieyeball says:

    I gave up on Mighty Mouth not long after a caller proved, live, on the air that The Great GasBag had lied about voting in a New York State election (I’m pretty sure it was a primary). I figured if he lied about that he would lie about anything.
    Later I read or heard that some outfit wanted to run a radio broadcast after his show and call it “After the Rush Hour” The plan was to discuss what Zippy had said that day.
    Limbaugh sued because they were using his name. He won!
    The program never aired. Mr. Free Speech indeed!
    ————
    How about Mr. Joyner, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Mataconis et al. syndicate the OTB Network Radio Hour.
    I would listen to that.

    On The Beat…On Top Broadcasting…Only The Best…Reynolds can be the West Coast correspondent; filing the ocassional International Dispatch as he flits around the globe.

  29. James Joyner says:

    @ernieyeball: We had a weekly show on BlogTalkRadio for a few years before their business model imploded. It was reasonably popular by BTR standards but almost certainly not entertaining enough for a broad audience. Filling three hours of air five days a week, week after week, year after year, with something that millions of people want to listen to is an extraordinary talent.

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Davebo:

    Because it’s a great place to live and Savage doesn’t despise them at all. I don’t really have to explain how Colbert isn’t really a hard core conservative do I?

    I guess that I hoped that Savage would eventually move to Topeka or Laramie.

    Also, another acid-bath conservative – David Horowitz – lives in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, a nice liberal lifestyle place.

  31. ernieyeball says:

    @James Joyner: Sorry I missed those “broadcasts”.
    Yes, talent is a big factor in attracting an audience. Of course that does not insure that the content of any media will be accurate or factual.

    As for Brush Lintoff I will defer to the wit and wisdom of the late, great Mike Royko.

    A vile publication has arrived in the mail. It is so disgusting that I was about to throw it away…
    This contemptible 12-page newsletter is called the Flush Rush. And its sole purpose for existing is to ridicule one of the great patriots, philosophers and real classy guys of our time — Rush Limbaugh.

    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1993-07-09/news/1993190171_1_limbaugh-rush-make-fun

  32. Pinky says:

    @ernieyeball: I read the Royko piece. Not good. It mischaracterizes Limbaugh’s take on poverty. It says that his grandfather was the US ambassador to India – he was something, but not the US ambassador. As for the comment about Chelsea Clinton, there are contradictory stories online – that he showed a picture of her as the “White House dog” in 1993, or that he showed a picture of Millie as the “White House kid” in 1992. The clip isn’t available online.

  33. ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky: I wasn’t Royko’s fact checker. You will have to argue with him.

    http://graveyards.com/IL/Cook/acacia/

  34. An Interested Party says:

    As for the comment about Chelsea Clinton…

    Aww, that’s so cute, yet so futile, as there are plenty of other offensive comments from Limbaugh…

  35. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: The first Alternet quote wasn’t about race. It was about Barack and Michelle Obama and Sonia Sotomayor. The second quote was about MSNBC putting everything in racial terms. The piece was a specific denunciation of the racism of the Democratic Party. The third quote came from a discussion about the violent culture of the NFL. A caller tried to make it about race, but Rush steered him away from it. I can only assume that the rest of the piece is equally deceptive in its use of quotes. So all you’ve shown is that you’re unfamiliar with the show and unwilling to research it. Oh, and also, that you care so little about racism that you’re willing to throw around the accusation if it helps your cause.

  36. ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky: …unfamiliar with the show and unwilling to research it.

    Research the show! You are kidding I’m sure.
    Early on The Big BlowHard protested that his Radio Rant Revival was not a news broadcast but “for entertainment purposes only”.
    This relieved him of any obligation to present factual information.

  37. Pinky says:

    @ernieyeball: Factual information – Party puts up links with nonsense and you scoff at the idea of researching what you’re talking about, and you’re claiming the factual information high ground?

  38. Pinky says:

    Let’s have some more fun at Alternet’s expense. Here’s the quote from Limbaugh’s transcript, June 4, 2009:

    “I play this sound bite to illustrate to you, in their own words, my theory that the people running this country — Obama, his wife, Sotomayor — they’re mad. They’re angry. They’re not cool and calm and collected. I think it was the Hannity interview yesterday that I point this out that will be in the second installment tonight at 9PM ET on the Fox News Channel. They’re angry. They’re not cool, calm, and collected and there’s a lingering anger that they still feel the need for retribution.”

    Here’s how the Alternet article put it:

    “The days of them [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry. And they want to use their power as a means of retribution.”

  39. Pinky says:

    My mistake – I blew it on that last one. The quote was from a different portion of the show, and they were talking about race, but in the context of political stereotypes. The “them” could be interpreted as referring to Sonia Sotomayor and Barack Obama or to minorities. But if you read the transcript, it’s just not fair to call it racist.

  40. ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky: The only high ground I ever claim is my weed patch.